Monthly Archives: February 2011

Japanese Perfection and Why You Need to be Specific in Your Requests

I’m reading a book called “Reframing Organizations” by Lee Bolman & Terrence Deal (Jossey-Bass, 2008) for an Organizational Behavior course I’m taking and I came across a hilarious section which refers to an encounter between two companies in the 1970s or 1980s. The first is an American company which needed ball bearings and the second is a Japanese plant that made them.

Here’s what apparently happened:

Although the book’s main point was more about the difference in company standards between both countries, I couldn’t help but map this back to miscommunication in virtual teams.

This nearly always happens. One party sends a request without being descriptive enough, and the other party acts on it without following up.

Here are a couple of lessons learned for both companies that we can all learn from:

American Company: Be explicit with your orders. Elaborating on the request by saying something like “We’d like all those ball bearings to be perfectly shaped, but we’ll be ok if you send us up to 20 defective ones” might have reduced the time to make them.

Japanese Plant: If you’re not too sure about the order, ask before you start working on it. You wasted time making an additional 20 defective ball bearings! Oh, and ease up on the perfectionism, will you?

Advertisements

7 Parts to the Perfect Voice Message

If you run your own business or manage a team, you probably leave more than a handful of voice messages each day on your clients’ or colleagues’ phones. To make sure that you communicate your message clearly and minimize any miscommunication, you’ll want to make sure you craft the perfect voice message. Here’s a sample with the 7 parts you’ll need:

  1. Greeting: Say their name – it’ll grab their attention and minimize the possibility they think you’re some telemarketer.
  2. Your Info: Say your name as well (and the company you work for if you’re calling a business client). Make sure it’s your full name – too many Peters around.
  3. The Time & Date: Nearly all phone services have the option to retrieve the time you called someone, but no one has the patience to go through that menu, so do the person a favor and tell them when you called in case they got the message later in the day or the next morning.
  4. The Subject: State the reason why you’re calling and what you want to let the person know. Be concise – no one wants to hear a life story here.
  5. The Action Item: Do you want them to call you back ASAP? Then say so. Do you want them to listen to an FYI (For Your Information)? Then say so. Do you want them to do something for you like create a report and send it before the next day? Then say so. Always have an action, or state a lack thereof.
  6. Your Number: Even if you don’t think the person you’re calling should call you back, always leave your number – they might need it. E-N-U-N-C-I-A-T-E and speak slowly. You can also mention when it’s best to call you back and the time zone you’re in if you have a preference.
  7. Your Number Again: Chances are that even though you spoke slowly the first time, the person would have fondled to find a pen and missed writing your number down anyway. Although they can replay the voice message to hear it again, you’ll win major cool points if you repeat it for them at the end.
 

No one has the patience to go through the option menu to retrieve the time and date you called, so do the person a favor and tell them when you called. This puts things into context if multiple voice messages have been left.